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The Men in My Life Have Fleas

    It's like this. After spending twenty seven months with the man I somehow believed was the love of my life, I got dumped. It wasn't so bad. I had already by that time regained enough perspective to see that losing him might not be the bad news. Take whatever you know about narcissism and times it by ten, and Meier is what you'll wind up with. Blinded by love, it took me a while to realize that the only things we ever talked about were confirmations of how wonderful we both thought he was.

    Given the fact that breakups with Meier had come routinely every month and a half or so, and that I had worn my friends out with the endless recounting of Meier atrocities, I resolved to get over it on my own this time. I went to the library, paid my $13 fine, and checked out everything they had about relationships, personality disorders, and serial killers. I was ready to spend my entire weekend being convinced of how lucky I was to finally be rid of him.

    Saturday evening, the phone rang. It was Meier. He said "Come and get this cat before I have him euthanized. He sheds, and by the way, I've tested the bromine level in the hot tub and it has been in the optimal range for the past three days running."

    The cat, Tristan, had been living in a dumpster when I met him. He was a mess. Meier thought I was crazy. I brought him home, cleaned him up, had him neutered and got him a gorgeous collar. All at once, he was magnificent. Meier said it would be best for Tristan to live at his house. This was the first time we had broken up since Tris had come into the relationship and I had been worrying about how I was going to get him back, so Meier was actually doing me a favor. Thank God he had no idea.

    "I can be there in a half hour." I wondered what to do. Should I look as good or as bad as possible? In Meier's world looking good would be conclusive evidence that I wanted him back. Looking awful, on the other hand, would be proof that I was falling apart without him. I really just wanted my cat, so I ran my fingers through my hair and grabbed my coat. Thirty minutes later (Meier disdained a lack of punctuality) there I was, ringing Meier's doorbell. Tristan came running as soon as he saw me. His was, as always, a much warmer welcome than I got from Meier. Meier said, "You know I never wanted this cat. You know I like to keep my home immaculate." Meier's version of "immaculate" meant that his house looked like one of those showrooms set up in the really ritzy furniture stores. It looked like no one lived there. What Meier considered clutter, I considered a sign of life. What evidence of life he did allow was green and mauve and grew in and around all the bathroom fixtures.

    Meier said, "Come see my mulch." When I declined, he said it was obvious I was having trouble getting over him. It would probably be best for him not to have any further contact with me so that I would be able to get on with my life. But didn't I want to come over Thursday and watch the Duke game?

    On the way home, I stopped to get things Tris needed. Re-trousseaued, my cat and I arrived home. I carried him over the threshold. He sniffed the sofa. The house seemed to be to his liking. We picked the best spot for his litter box, and put his bed on the floor next to mine. He decided he really didn't need the bed after all, mine being so inviting. It pleased me to have cat hair on what had formerly been Meier's side of the bed. I went into the bathroom and threw away Meier's toothbrush.

    To further seal the split, I decided to take a look at the personal ads in a local paper. Not much good with moderation, I picked seven that sounded interesting. Anyone in his mid 30's to late 40's that didn't mention NASCAR, breast size or what a great catch he was was fair game. I reminded myself that this cost $1.95 a minute, and wrote out what I wanted to say, while Tristan kneaded my lap and proved that my concept of contentment had until then been quite limited. I made a mental note to trim his claws.

    The messages all sounded interesting, except for one who asked incredibly probing personal questions (a byproduct of way too much therapy, I suppose). With the others, I gave basic information. I am not good at this. I would like to believe that it's because what is wonderful about me does not translate well into this medium. On the surface, I am too average. I have no outstanding accomplishments, and, as Meier puts it, I'm just not the "kind of pretty" men notice. At least I have a good phone voice with which I may prepare these potential suitors for just how unspectacular they may find me.

    Three weeks later, it was all over. My dates had run the gamut from one man who had spent most of the evening talking about his dead father, who had indeed been a very handsome, virile kind of guy, judging by the photo my neither handsome nor virile looking date kept in his wallet. The "open minded journalist" cut short my explanation of why I am vegetarian by telling me that there are absolutely no benefits to a meat-free diet. I began to judge the success of my dates by whether or not they had paid for dinner. I heard the same divorce stories over and over. One man mused aloud about how I'd have to get rid of the cat if we got married. Another admitted he'd started cheating on his ex-wife with her best friend six weeks after they were married. Most of the time, I had this strange feeling. There was something really unnatural about this entire process. It lacked the charm of the corny old ways people used to fall in love. Having your eyes meet across a crowded room. Accidentally sitting in the wrong seat in a movie theater. Catching a glimpse of him dumpster-diving for tuna fish in the parking lot at Seven Eleven. Though, come to think of it, I hadn't had a lot of luck with any of those scenarios, either. Tristan was my only success story.

    While I couldn't say that any of the six men I had gone out with made Meier look good, Tris was looking like a real prize. Each time I went out, I found myself anticipating getting home and joining him on the sofa, rubbing his buff colored belly while he made that purring noise that sounded like a dove cooing. He let me know that in his golden eyes, I couldn't be any more spectacular. I started longing to go home earlier every date. Like the man who said why go out with hamburger when you have steak at home, I knew my time was being misspent. What was going on here? Why was it so hard to meet someone good and kind and, well, more like my cat? Then it dawned on me: maybe the good ones really are all taken. From what I had learned, at my age a woman obviously has a much better chance of hitting it off with a stray cat than a stray man. (Remember, I was one for one with cats.) Right off the top of my head, I knew of several other cases that supported my point. The cats were much more realistic and insightful about what was required in a companion. They carried far less baggage. They were tidier. And you could pick up a stray cat for free - the 900 number call cost $73.

    I thought the subject deserved a little more research. Digging to the bottom of the pile of books stacked next to my bed, I found the newspaper and opened it back up to the Classified section. There he was, the one for me! The sweetest faced little puppy in the world, up for adoption at our local SPCA. I was ready to try my luck again.

Why Dogs Are Better Than Men:
Dogs don't step on the imaginary brake.
Dogs admit it when they're lost.
Dogs don't weigh down your purse with their stuff.
Dogs do not care whether you shave your legs.
Dogs take care of their own needs.
Dogs aren't threatened if you earn more than they do.
Dogs mean it when they kiss you.
Dogs are nice to your relatives.

    From the time Mason hopped into the car and helped me drive home, saucer sized paws planted on the steering wheel, Tristan and I knew things would never be the same. Unlike the Personals, the SPCA ads really do support truth in advertising. If they say "puppy exuberance and great sense of humor," you're not going to find yourself sitting across the table from a sour puss recycling the latest jokes from some moronic am radio talk show. Count on being dragged on exciting treks through the park, getting sloppy wet kisses every morning at six sharp, and watching a 70 pound puppy prove to you that it really is possible to stuff himself into the unused bed you purchased for your ten pound cat. I have not one but two men who rush to the door when I come home, love my cooking, think my friends are cool, and generally let me know that they have never been happier. They don't eye other women on the street. We don't fight over the remote. Not that there aren't certain things I miss from the old days, but I think the trade off is more than equitable. And Mason has taken care of the Meier problem, offering to take him off at the knees the last time he showed up on our doorstep. ("I could sue you, you know. And come see what a great job I did waxing my Beemer.")

    Now I spend my Friday nights giving flea baths, listening to Mason's tail go thump thump thump on the sides of the tub. Tristan watches from a safe distance, occasionally meowing his support to our large soapy puppy. I have a stash of kitty treats in my kitchen cupboard, and there are dog toys in various stages of demolition all over the living room rug. My wardrobe is color coordinated to match the fur that will be shed all over it. The first number on my speed dial now belongs to the vet. And tonight Tris will take his spot on my chest, and begin his nightly kneading ritual. Mason will curl up next to me, lay his head on the pillow and sigh. That pretty much sums it up. It just doesn't get any better than this.


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